Stratigraphic Investigations into the Late Miocene-Early Pliocene of the Northern Aorangi Range, Wairarapa
The late Miocene-early Pliocene geology of the Makara and Ruakokoputuna Valleys in the northern Aorangi Range, south-east Wairarapa, is described in detail. In this area, a succession of Neogene sedimentary units laps onto basement rocks of Cretaceous age, and late Miocene-early Pliocene stratigraphy varies markedly, from bathyal mudstone to high energy coastal environments, over distances of only a few kilometres. Sections were measured at four key locations, which provided reference sites for stratigraphic changes across the study area. Additional detailed field mapping was carried out around Te Ahitaitai Ridge. Depositional environments were interpreted using grain size analysis, macrofossil and foraminiferal assemblages, and palynology. Foraminiferal biostratigraphy was used to constrain the ages of samples. Data obtained by these methods were combined with previous authors’ work to produce a synthesis map, unit correlations, and geological cross-sections of the Makara and Ruakokoputuna Valleys. Late Miocene-early Pliocene geological history is interpreted, and a depositional model is proposed to explain the presence of giant cross-beds in the Clay Creek Limestone. Despite major differences in lithology, the Clay Creek Limestone and Bells Creek Mudstone are shown to be partially laterally equivalent, while the overlying Makara Greensand is shown to be a diachronous unit which ranges from late Miocene (Kapitean) to early Pliocene (Opoitian) in age. This revised stratigraphy raises questions about the current classification of the Palliser and Onoke Groups, and provides new insights into regional geological history. The late Miocene-early Pliocene stratigraphy records a history of regional subsidence, punctuated by episodes of deformation which caused localised uplift and erosion. Previous seismic imaging studies identified one such episode of accelerated crustal shortening and deformation in the Wairarapa region near the Miocene-Pliocene boundary. The Clay Creek Limestone has proven to be a useful marker horizon for constraining the timing and style of deformation, which is interpreted to have occurred prior to 7.2 Ma. Major differences in stratigraphy between the upthrown and downthrown sides of the Mangaopari Fault indicate that the fault was active during this deformational episode. Lithostratigraphic units from the study area have been correlated with units in other parts of the Wairarapa, and these correlations suggest that late Miocene deformation in the region may have propagated from south to north.